Finland now stands on the brink of being one of Europe's foremost suppressors of free speech, with both the process and speed in which it has tackled Internet "political thought crimes" over the last year and a half, being nothing short of stunning.
The Finnish Court's case against well known racist, Seppo Lehto, revolved around the many blogs and radio transmissions that were made by the accused, and was divided between the charges of extreme libelous slander, incitement of a racial/ethnic group and violating religious sensibilities. The Finnish blogger, Vasarahammer, deserves a special thanks for being kind enough to provide an English version of his original post in Finnish about the court's verdict, as well as including his own observations.
Vasarahammer: Notorious hatemonger and self-styled historian Seppo Lehto was sentenced to two years and four months imprisonment in Tampere District Court Thursday 30th of May 2008. Lehto was charged with nine counts of gross defamation, inciting ethnic hatred and inciting religious hatred. Lehto had previosly served a suspended sentence for defamation and was under probation, which means that his three month sentence will become mandatory. The total mandatory sentence will be two years and four months, which is by far the harshest sentence ever for a Freedom of Speech crime in Finnish legal history. The full verdict can be read in Finnish here.
Outside Finland Lehto is perhaps best known from his Youtube video, in which he draws a cartoon of muslim prophet Muhammad. The video was withdrawn from Youtube but has later been republished there as well as in other online video sites. However, in his home country he has become notorious for his numerous filth blogs containing explicit racist insults illustrated with manipulated pornographic images and Patrioottiradio podcast radio site, which he used to hurl racist insults to politicians, civil servants and members of ethnic and religious minorities.
The filth blogs are located in Blogger meaning that so far it has been very difficult for Finnish authorities to establish the perpetrator. Lehto has stubbornly denied his involvement with the blogs and continued to do so during the trial."
Like Vasarahammer said, the guy is a notorius hate monger and the man draws no sympathy from the Tundra Tabloids. And like the Baron stated concerning the same case and individual:
Baron Bodissey: Last March I posted a video from the Finnish bad boy and self-promoter Seppo Lehto. As was pointed out by several commenters at the time, Mr. Lehto is not the most appealing poster child for freedom of expression.
Unfortunately, one cant choose only the most noble and upstanding people as defendants in civil liberties cases. When it comes to the suppression of free speech, authorities are more likely to pick off the stragglers the unpopular, unpleasant, and unattractive media personalities who inhabit the fringes of public discourse.
Seppo Lehto is one such character, and now he has just been convicted and sentenced for inciting ethnic hatred. He will spend more than two years in prison for posting his noxious opinions on his blog. In many ways, Finland is leading the way in the repression of free speech. Britain generates more cases, but the Finns have been prosecuting theirs more effectively and imposing harsher punishments."
This is the perplexing dilemma a western democracy faces when it has both "inciting ethnic hatred and protecting religious sensibilities" speech laws on the books, all the while claiming that the right to free speech is protected. You can't have it both ways, one will have to succumb to the other, and it will always come to the detriment of free speech.
The case against Seppo Lehto can be easily divided into three different charges, with possibly only one of the three charges actually having any merit. After looking at the charges as well as the offending websites that Seppo Lehto is responsible for, only the multiple charges of slanderous libel against a number of different individuals, could possibly carry any weight, the rest deals with the supposed offending of a religious group.
While it's true that the TT hasn't poured over every blog that the offenders are responsible for, the offences named in the court's verdict (other than the ones dealing in libelous slander) would never have been brought before a court in the US. Any US judge would have thrown them out, never giving them any serious thought. Here in Finland, well, things march to a different tune, and the Islamists know it, and can be promised to milk it for all it's worth.
Regardless of how repulsive and racist the message Seppo Lehto has promoted on the Internet, what is even more worrisome is the zeal and swiftness with which the Finnish judicial system has been trying to prosecute cases like this. Again, it must be said, the TT believes that in the individual cases involving libel and slander, the court could possibly prove their case against Lehto. He most certainly chose to misrepresent a number of people's in a way that was both totally false and demeaning in character.
Where the state really crossed the line was in its pursuing the incitement of a racial group and violating religious sensibilities, something of which (the latter) has not happened in Finland since the sixties.
Vasarahammer states: Last time anybody was convicted of insulting religious feelings (blasphemy) in Finland was during the 1960s. Artist Harro Koskinens painting Sikamessias (Pig Messiah) was considered to be blapshemous and the artist was force to pay a fine for the offence. The successful conviction of Lehto for inciting religious hatred may lead to prosecution of other bloggers publishing material deemed offensive to muslims.
Lehto was found guilty of the following crime:
USKONRAUHAN RIKKOMINEN 21.9.2005 TAMPERE
B ja A ovat ainakin syyskuusta2005 lukien yhdessä ja yksissä tuumin yleisön keskuuteenlevittäneet lausuntoja ja muita tiedonantoja, joissa heovat loukkaamistarkoituksessa julkisesti herjanneet jahäpäisseet sitä, mitä uskonnonvapauslaissa (267/1922) tarkoitetut islamilaiset uskonnolliset yhdyskunnat pitävät pyhänä.
B ja A ovat laatineet ja toimittaneetinternetissä yleisön saatavillesuursuomalainen.blogspot.com -nimetyn sivuston sekätanjakarpela.blogspot.com -nimetyn sivuston, jossaesitetään Allahia tai profeetta Muhammadia kuvaaviahahmoja sekaantumassa eläimiin ja kamelin, jonkatakapuolessa on profeetta Muhammadia kuvaava hahmo, sekätanjakarpela.blogspot.com -nimetyn sivuston, jossavastaavankaltainen kuva.
Violation of Religious Sensibilities. 21.9.2005 Tampere
B and A (the accused) from at least September 2005 acted both together and separately in considered statements and communiqués to disseminate publicly with insulting intentions to openly blaspheme and desecrate that, which under the freedom of religion laws (267/1922) the Islamic religious community deems holy.
B and A have uploaded and edited on the internet publically accessible suursuomalainen.blogspot.com -named site, and tanjakarpela.blogspot.com -named site in which Allah or the prophet Muhammad pictured characters were mixed with animals and a camel, whose backside has the prophet Muhammad's pictured character, and tanjakarpela.blogspot.com -named site, in which is a same kind of picture.
Also worth noting is the interesting statements of Erkki -Ol' Scruffy- Tuomioja, the (fortunately) former Foreign Minister of Finland.ŽOn his weblog, Ol' Scruffy states that:
Hyviä uutisia Tamperelainen sarjasolvaaja on lopultakin saanut kahden vuoden ehdottoman vankeustuomion pitkään jatketusta halventavien ja loukkaavien kirjoitusten julkaisemisesta netissä. Kunnianloukkausten lisäksi tuomio tuli myös kiihottamisesta kansanryhmää vastaan ja uskonrauhan rikkomisesta.
Tuomio on ensimmäinen kunnon muistutus siitä, että samat säännöt ja lait kuin muussakin julkistamisessa ja käyttäytymisessä pätevät myös silloin kun tekopaikkana on netti. Kauan tätä puuttumista onkin saanut odottaa, sekä yleensä että nyt tuomitun miehen tekojen osalta erikseen. Mieleen hiipiikin epäilys, että pitkään presidenttiä, ministereitä ja kansanedustajia solvannut kirjoittaja teki ratkaisevan virheen vasta, kun solvaukset kohdistuivat myös käräjätuomariin, syyttäjiin ja rikoskomisarioon.
Good News A serial insulter from Tampere has in the end, received a two year sentence for having long spread demeaning and insulting writings and publishing them on the internet. In addition to slander the judgement included incitement of an ethnic group and violating the sensibilities of a religion.
The judgment is the first real reminder that the laws and regulations as in other publications and conduct also qualify when the place in question is the Net. This kind of action has long been sought, in general and now seperately concerning the convicted men's actions. I have reason to believe that the insulting writer of the president, ministers and representatives of parliament for a long time, made a tragic error when his insults became directed against the District Court Judge, Prosecuting Attorney and the Crimes Commission."
But wait, that's not all!
Erkki Tuomioja is quoted on the Skeptis website (Sceptic society) saying:
Kun meillä on ollut Muhammed-pilapiirroksista aiheutuneita kriisitilanteita, olen pyrkinyt niitä aikaisemmassa työssäni ulkoministerinä rauhoittamaan. Näin tehdessäni minulla on ollut huono omatunto, sillä miksi meidän pitäisi hyväksyä minkään näköistä sanavapauden tai edes huonon maun rajoittamista sen vuoksi, että se loukkaa joidenkin uskonnollisia tunteita, kansanedustaja Erkki Tuomioja kertoi Skepsiksen 20-vuotistilaisuudessa.
During the crisis situation caused by the Muhammed-cartoons, I intended to calm things down in my prior job as Foreign Minister. I had a bad conscience concerning my actions at the time, for why should we approve of any limitation of any kind of free speech or bad taste, just because it insults someone's religious feelings, said parliament representative Erkki Tuimioja at the 20th Skeptis anniversary.
Now you tell me, what is circulating in this SDP party members mind? Once again, a hard Lefty is found to be able to hold two diametrically opposed thoughts in his head... at the same time. What a trick!
The whole issue of what offends and what does not, should be dismissed out of hand, with anti-religious and anti-free speech laws being stricken from the books. The realm of where things should be decided is in the public sector, with racist idiots like Seppo Lehto being confined to the ash heap in peoples minds, not being incarcerated in a cell for two years.
Most of what can be said of Seppo Lehto's numerous websites, is that they are for the most part,..parodies, nothing that anyone could be close to believing that they were true. lehto's actions have been widely known for few years, and posed no danger to society, due to his being written off as a crank. In other words, not to be taken seriously.
That Finland is now in the role of protecting Islam from criticism, is a step that no other state in Europe has taken until now, and that, more than anything else, is indeed dangerous as it is worrisome. So watch out folks -at least here in Finland- if you have a blog that criticizes Islam, the state has your number. If they dare to come after Mikko Ellilä, Tomashot and now Seppo Lehto, don't be surprised if come calling for you at some time in the near future. *L* KGS
Finnish caricaturist Seppo Lehto draws Muhammad caricature